This marks the first full week of early voting for the 2017 Sampson County Municipal Election, which will see contested mayoral and commissioners races in Garland, including three familiar faces vying for the mayor’s seat, as well as contested races for town seats in Newton Grove and Salemburg.
One-stop voting is currently taking place at the Sampson County Board of Elections, extending during business hours and including limited hours on the Saturday before Election Day.
Less than a couple dozen people had taken advantage of one-stop voting as of Monday, according to Board of Elections director Ashley Tew. The Board of Elections Office, located at 120 County Complex Road, Bldg F, Suite 110, Clinton, is the only place to participate in one-stop voting.
The early voting period started on Thursday and Friday of last week, before continuing on Monday. Hours for one-stop voting — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. — will extend through this Friday, Oct. 27, and be held next Monday, Oct. 30, through Friday, Nov. 3, before ending on Saturday, Nov. 4, with a last-chance to cast early votes from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on that day.
Election Day voting will be held from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in the eight towns.
Those locations will be at Autryville Town Hall, 215 S. Gray St.; Clinton City Hall Auditorium, 221 Lisbon St.; Garland Town Hall, 190 S. Church St.; Harrells Fire Department Training Center, 924 Ward Road; Newton Grove Fire Station, 313 W. Weeksdale St.; Roseboro Municipal Building, 101 W. Pleasant St.; Salemburg Town Hall, 100 Methodist Drive; and Turkey Town Hall, 51 Market St.
Faces in the races
The filing period for the 2017 Municipal Election ended in late July after a couple more candidates in Garland and Newton Grove threw their hats in the ring, officially making those town board races contested, with four people vying for three available seats in each. Salemburg has five people vying for three commissioners seats.
Town board races in Roseboro, Turkey, Harrells, Clinton and Autryville are not contested. In fact, Autryville will have a vacancy as only one person filed with two board seats available.
Three sitting mayors are also poised to retain their seats with no opposition against them, including Lew Starling in Clinton, Gerald Darden in Newton Grove and the Rev. Larry Autry in Autryville.
All of the municipal board seats have four-year terms, while the mayoral posts in each town have two-year terms.
In the Garland mayoral race, Mayor Winifred Murphy will be going up against Commissioners Haywood Johnson, who serves as mayor pro tem and will see his term on the board expire this year, and Ralph Smith, who resigned from the board earlier this year and returned upon appointment. The Garland commissioners race includes newcomers Austin Brown, Richard Smith and Eddie Bronson Jr. and incumbent S.J. Smith, with three seats available. Carolyn Melvin is not seeking another term.
During previous meetings, Murphy hinted that her current term might probably be her last, but had a change of heart.
Ralph Smith resigned from the board at the end of June, choosing not to serve the rest of his term. That unexpired term went to Joseph Lee Carberry, who had filed to seek one of the opening seats but withdrew upon being appointed to the board in Smith’s stead. That term now served by Carberry extends through 2019. Ralph Smith returned to the board last month, appointed upon the resignation of Judy Smith.
In Newton Grove, there will also be at least one new commissioner as Commissioner Steve Jackson did not file to seek another term. Incumbents Gary Mac Herring and Teresa Wilson are joining challengers Jessica Barefoot and William “Chris” Raynor in the chase for three seats.
In Salemburg, incumbents Richard “Dickie” Walters Jr., Thomas “Tommy” Jackson and Arnold Page are seeking to retain their spots on the board, while challengers Donald Comer and Johnnie C. Parker attempt to unseat them.
In Clinton, Councilman Darue Bryant, who was appointed in May to fill out the late Maxine Harris’ District 5 term, appears poised to win election to his first full term and Marcus Becton will extend his already 20-year tenure as District 3’s representative as both are unopposed. Challenger Daniel Ruggles is likewise in place to take the reins in District 1 with Steve Stefanovich not filing for another term.
Unopposed yet again, Starling will earn a ninth mayoral term.
In Harrells, Charles “Ted” Moore and Kim Johnson are poised to continue as aldermen, just as Cyndi Templin and Anthony Bennett are for the Roseboro board and Rudy M. Blackburn and Tony Moore will for Turkey.
In Autryville, Autry is unopposed for mayor and Mickie Spell is set to keep a commissioner seat. There is another seat that is vacant. If a candidate does not win by write-in votes, the board will have to appoint someone to fill the seat. Any number of write-ins can be elected as long as they are valid write-ins, the candidate is eligible for the seat (lives within the municipality) and the candidate accepts it, according to Tew.
Write-ins are allowed for all races, she noted.
Along with its contested races for mayor and commissioners, Garland will also have an ABC referendum on the ballot.
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.